One could say there's a veritable glut of mystical treatises on the market today -- and we do mean glut in the very onomatopoetic sense of ''messy goo,'' implying a clogged drain. That's why we're pleased amidst our own growing number of mysticism-related offerings to present a book that's proven its mettle. Rather than write about mysticism, Dom Cuthbert Butler (a Benedictine abbot and scholar, not to be confused with the Butler of Lives of the Saints
) chooses three roundly recognized masters to speak in his stead. Originally published in 1923, Butler's compendium is divided into two parts -- the Speculative and the Practical -- and compiles the writings of Sts. Augustine, Gregory the Great and Bernard of Clairvaux. Each section of each saint's writings includes a short biography and analysis by Butler and an autobiographical passage by each mystic, then delves into each writer's particular portrayal and experience of mysticism. Of special interest is Gregory's unique exposition on ''The Two Lives'' which, in Butler's words, ''has ever since been taken as the classical and standard definition'' of the practical and contemplative aspects of mystical life. Butler also points out Gregory's sometimes-overlooked indebtedness to Augustine and Bernard's subsequent reliance on Gregory, illustrating the communal aspect contemplation embodies beyond the individual's experience.
An Eighth Day View:
This collection presents the writings of three of Western Christianity's most revered teachers of mystical theology. In addition to personal accounts by Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory, and Saint Bernard of their religious experiences, "Western Mysticism" discusses speculative contemplation, defines mysticism and its characteristics, and contrasts contemplative and active lives.